OPINION: Lucrative lures don’t fit Land of Steady Habits

OPINION: Lucrative lures don’t fit Land of Steady Habits

By Jeffery Kurz

I am learning that they do not call this the Land of Steady Habits for nothing. The moniker is said to describe the strict morals of the state’s inhabitants. Now you and I know there are plenty of exceptions to that description here in the Nutmeg State (also called the Provisions State and, officially, the Constitution State), but you can also say, at least observationally, that the description in general seems to be holding up. People here regard change with suspicion.

With the Constitution State in dire need of financial stimulus, and residents weary of increased taxes as a steady habit, there are all sorts — or at least three that I can think of offhand — opportunities for stimulus. But everywhere we look these deals also seem like deals with the devil.

I will list them: tolls, marijuana, sports betting.

These all appear to be good ideas — at least when it comes to raising money. One of my earliest memories is of watching Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” on television (black and white, rabbit ears — a long time ago). Don Giovanni is a bad boy, and at the end of the opera a trap door opens and flames come up and Don Giovanni drops into hell. That scared the you-know-what out of me when I was a kid, and now that image comes to me when I think about Connecticut making these devilish deals.

Nobody likes tolls. The Land of Steady Habits has gotten along just fine now without them for decades. People would support tolls, at least a little, if state lawmakers could be trusted to use the money for transportation purposes, but the track record is not good in that regard. Plus, tolls don’t care how much, or how little, money you make, or have,  and they are going to be punishing for some people. 

There are municipalities that are coming out against tolls. It’s a symbolic gesture, meant to be a signal to Hartford. Meriden’s City Council just the other day chose not to send that signal, though that might have been a good idea considering the city’s placement geographically within the state amid major highways. Southington’s council also chose not to send a message, although there was a heated debate about it.

State Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, who represents Berlin and Southington, was at the Southington council meeting that got heated, and told those assembled it was too early when it comes to tolls because “the bill is not formed yet.” He said there are three different proposals. My guess is there are those who, were there a dozen proposals, or even a hundred, wouldn’t like any of them.

Also making its way through the legislature is legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Gov. Ned Lamont supports legalizing marijuana. Legalizing would be better that leaving weed sales to the black market, which is an argument that makes some sense, but what does not make sense is failing to pay heed to the warnings of health experts, as in medical societies from four states, Delaware, New Jersey, New York and, yes, Connecticut, warning that there is not enough research to show pot is safe. “They're telling lawmakers to ‘stop the tide now,’” reported the Associated Press. Yikes! (I would be in favor of a don’t punish people for pot deal, but I don’t think that will raise money.)

Rhode Island is the lone New England state to, thus far, have legalized sports betting. Once limited to Nevada, it’s available to states that think it might be a good idea. Many might not. It was reported earlier this week that states that have jumped on board early, including Rhode Island, have discovered it may not be the best deal. “Most of the states that moved quickly to legalize sports betting after the Supreme Court cleared the way are still waiting for the expected payoff,” said the AP.

OK. So, all these lucrative lures, all these trap doors.

Money has to come from somewhere, but every time there’s a suggestion, a crowd gathers to object. What’s the answer? When it comes to spending, Connecticut will need even another moniker: the Land that Does Without.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or jkurz@record-journal.com.


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